My Russian Family

Posted: January 13, 2012 in Uncategorized
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Once again while in Ulyanovsk I get to have the pleasure of realizing some long term goals. This time, I’m getting to meet my Russian relatives. My grandmother, my father’s mother, was Russian (well, somewhat. It’s very complicated to explain). My grandmother’s uncle (her mother’s brother) was the Soviet poet Ilya Selvinsky. He’s barely known in America, and only certain people recognize him by name in Russia. When I was in St. Petersburg, no one I was with knew who he was. While here in Ulyanovsk, I mentioned who he was to my Russian teacher and she knew. We had a unit in class where we read about him and a few of his poems. It turns out that he is somewhat forgotten, but people know songs and cartoons that were made from his poems and plays. For example, there is the popular folk song “Черноглазая Kазачка” (Chernoglazaya Kazachka, or the Dark-eyed Cossack Woman). Enjoy the awesome Soviet army choir rendition.

Ilya Selvinsky

One thing that my brother has wanted for a while is some of the writings of Selvinsky. I was able to find a complete, six-volume set of his works on the Russian equivalent of Amazingly, the books came to my house in America in less than two weeks (I had expected about two months). I reason why I ordered this specific collection is that the sixth volume is Selvinsky’s autobiographical novel. I suppose I have to translate it for my family when I get back home.

I guess I have my summer reading.

A few years ago, when my brother discovered or learned that we were related to Ilya Selvinsky, we found out that he has a daughter named Tatiana Selvinskaya. Tatiana is both an artist and a poet. I found out after being in Moscow with the Lafayette interim trip in 2009/2010 that some of her paintings are in the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow. I also learned, upon returning from that trip, from my great uncle Leo (my grandmother’s brother and the only one of the four siblings to be born in America) that sometime int eh 1970s or 1980s Tatiana was in America and had found and met with my great-uncle and one or two of my great-aunts. For some reason, my grandmother was unable to go to this meeting. Since I found this out, I have been wondering how to try to find and contact Tatiana.

Tatiana Selvinskaya

Well, fate and Ulyanovsk seem to really like me. While vacationing back home, my Russian teacher was catching up with an old friend who works at a museum in Ulyanovsk and mentioned me and my Russian relations. It turns out that the very museum that this woman works for had recently had an exhibition with some paintings of Tatiana Selvinskaya. Because of this exhibition, the people at the museum in Ulyanovsk had the phone number of a gallery in Moscow, which had Tatiana’s home phone number.

My Russian teacher and I ventured to the museum one day instead of class. There, we were able to look through a special book about the works of Tatiana Selvinskaya, which was complied by her son. I need to find this book as it has a few photos of her family on the last couple of pages. In another fluke, the woman who works at the museum has a best friend who lives in Norwalk (aka the town next to mine in Connecticut). Oh, and my teacher and I and this other lady then went to another museum across the street. This one was about architecture in Ulyanovsk. Basically, when the city was Simbirsk it was beautiful. It had many churches in it, one that even looked similar to St. Isaac’s in St. Petersburg. Then, Lenin got popular and died and the city was renamed and transformed. The birthplace of the leader of the Communist Revolution could not be home to churches. The beautiful buildings were taken down and grey, concrete, Soviet crap was put in its place. At one point, the historical governor’s mansion was destroyed because Brezhnev came to the city and it blocked the view of the Lenin Memorial from his hotel window.

I got yelled at for smiling. The lady is my Russian teacher. I don't know why the boat was in the museum of architecture and it wasn't explained.

Back to the family stuff, though. I called the number of Tatiana Selvinskaya and she agreed to meet with me when I am in Moscow in the coming week. She gave me the address of her studio and gave me directions. I am really excited to meet her, and I hope we will have an interesting conversation about our families.

Oh, and the people from the university are absolutely amazing. They gave me toy UAZiks as a present for the New Year. And, one of my other friends and her boyfriend gave me another toy UAZ. The EPA may not let me take a real one to America, but at least I’ll have these models.

This toy belonged to Roma. One of the doors has fallen off. His response, "It's even more like the real one that way!"

They light up and make noises!

  1. Yulia says:

    Please send me a private email. We are cousins, and I would like to sort out the family connection.

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